Passport processing sites soon available in malls-A A +A
Thursday, June 28, 2012
THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced Thursday its plans to devolve its consular services to the private sector to give wider access to Filipinos wanting to apply for passports without having to go through the long queues at the main office.
In a statement on the occasion of its 114th founding anniversary, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the DFA Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) is drafting a new set of guidelines, which will include the establishment of a nationwide appointment system to make the passport application process simpler and easier for the public.
Under the new guidelines, the OCA will have until December 31, 2012 to put in place a call center that would enable passport applicants to choose their appointment date and time at any of its consular offices nationwide.
The proposed appointment system will complement the ongoing transfer of DFA consular offices to shopping malls nationwide under Public-Private Partnership arrangements. This, he said, will not only save the government an estimated P1.04 billion in operating and other costs in the next 10 years, but will also decentralize government functions.
"This appointment system and other measures that the DFA has been taking during the past several months will significantly reduce if not eliminate the long lines that have been associated with the passport application process," he said.
One of the targets in the guidelines was the opening of the first 13 consular offices in Metro Manila and other key cities before the end of the year.
The DFA recently entered into memoranda of agreement with private firms operating a chain of malls nationwide, including SM Prime Holdings, Ayala Land, Robinsons Land Corporation and Pacific Mall Corporation.
The new guidelines also required all DFA mall-based offices to operate beyond regular office hours from Mondays to Saturdays to accommodate applicants who could not be absent from work or school. The offices would also be open for three hours on Sunday to accommodate applicants.
"These arrangements with our mall partners will not only involve a total makeover of our consular facilities but will also allow us to offer improved services in settings that offer comfort and convenience to the applying public," said del Rosario.
Likewise, the department ordered the decentralization of authentication services and to make this service available in Metro Manila and San Fernando, Pampanga, Cebu and Davao.
The guidelines also cover the conduct of special and mobile passport services and the accreditation of travel agencies that would allow them to continue assisting applicants until the end of the year.
With the new measures, del Rosario said passport applicants, especially those in the provinces, no longer need to go to DFA offices as early as midnight just to make sure that their applications would be accepted and processed.
"All the steps we have been taking during the past several months are in line with our commitment to bring government closer to the people," the Secretary said, adding that despite the improvement in consular services, the DFA has no plans of increasing its passport fees, which are currently pegged at P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing. (JCV/Sunnex)